The Nuge and the Beach



Yesterday the Oilers announced that forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been shut down for the season. He will undergo a fairly serious shoulder surgery that could take up to six months to heal.

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I have been saying for a couple months that there was some issue with his shoulder.  I know he took some time off before the World Junior tournament to rehab it, so it wasn’t like I was really breaking a story, but even without that there were signs.

A center really needs to be strong and healthy physically to play his position. They play all two hundred feet on the ice. All four corners, in front of both nets and everything in between. There are very few places to hide during a shift for a center.

On top of those responsibilities are face offs. These are very important situations of the game for a center. Starting with the puck for a shift makes a big difference. A good center competes for every face off. However, battling for every draw takes a toll on a center. Ask any player who takes a bunch of draws every night. The wrists, arms, legs and yes shoulders really get abused in the circle.

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After watching the Nuge since the season started I saw areas of his game where there was an obvious lack of strength. But one area really stuck out. In his own zone it was very clear that he was having issues with his shoulder. In front of the net there were too many times where he was out-muscled. He isn’t the strongest player in the league, but you don’t have to be to lift another player’s stick. It helps, but it isn’t impossible without Wanye type strength.

I can think of quite a few times where he and the opposing forward were going for a puck and the Nuge just wasn’t able to lift the stick. I am sure it was frustrating for him. Having weakness in your shoulder is difficult to work around.

I had a similar injury when I was playing in Chicago. It was very weird to play with a shoulder that felt loose and not very strong. With my labrum issue I had the choice to have the surgery or try and rehab it back to strength. The team and I decided I would try the rehab route first (keep in mind that all injuries are unique).

When I came back to play I wasn’t a 100 percent. Until I was (the next season) it was hard to play with a bad shoulder. Battling in front of the net to get position on the forward or lifting his stick was painful. Fighting, wow, it felt like I was fighting with one arm. That wasn’t much fun either. The season ended, I worked like crazy to improve the strength in the shoulder during the summer. The next year is was pretty close to normal, but not perfect.

With both Hemsky and Hall having had shoulder surgeries the last couple of years the Oilers training staff have a very good understanding on the protocol required. The Nuge will be seeing a lot of them all summer working on rehab and regaining strength. It won’t be a fun summer, but he should be ready sometime after the season starts next year.

Many fans were wondering why the team didn’t have him get it done earlier. Easy to say that now with the team officially out of the playoffs. Two weeks ago an announcement like this would have had fans storming the Oiler offices.

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The only concern I have is how this will affect his summer training regimen. I have no doubt he will come back next fall in shape with a shoulder that is ready to let him play and battle the way he wants.

The bad news he will be working all summer to just get back to where he is right now. In a perfect world he could have gone into the summer completely healthy and had the ability to add some muscle to his frame. I feel an additional five to seven pounds of twisted steel would have helped him.

He would be stronger and heavier to compete against some of the bigger centers in the new division next year. He would be adding some armor onto his frame to protect himself from the wear and tear that comes with an NHL season. Lastly, he would look better walking on a beach.

With this surgery adding some size will be difficult I think. He is very young so there is always next summer though.

Puck Management

NHL coaches love using this term. I will give you an prime example of what they are talking about when they say it.

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With just over a minute to go in the second period in last nights game, Taylor Hall was in control of the puck coming out of his end. Instead of chipping the puck forward or passing it to a player further up the ice he decides to dangle a Duck right at center ice.

The puck is turned over and goes back into the Oiler zone. A goal doesn’t get scored right then,  but less then thirty seconds later it does. On the next shift they do. The teams had changed lines but the momentum hadn’t.

This is puck management 101. Understanding the time remaining in the period is crucial. Understanding that a risky play at center ice in a tight game isn’t the right play is something that is learned through experience. If Hall can chip it forward to a linemate, who then dumps the puck in, I guarantee no goal is scored before the end of the period. Dumping it in isn’t always the sexy play for fans to watch, but it wins games.

Now I am not picking on Hall, it was just a perfect opportunity to explain puck management. With this group of Oilers there are examples like this quite often during a game. Watch the Blues or Hawks play, count how many times this happens with those groups.

These are lessons the young Oilers need to learn and experience. When they get it down, they will make the game much easier for them to play and they will actually get more scoring chances.

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  • OilersBrass

    First off…If Nuge gets back to healthy, even without the extra bulk he could have put on, the whole team will be miles better.

    Second, I noticed that Hall, Ebs and Gagner, on multiple occassions for each guy, tried to do too much by themsleves…Gagner tried to dangle through 3 ducks himself, Ebs tried to stickhandle into shooting positions, and Hall did the play Struds stated twice on one shift…they did well in the first period in getting away with that, but after that the team is on to their antics. They need to trust each other enough to pass it to each other!

  • Where's Your Towel

    Jason Strudwick said that the Nuge doesn’t need surgery!!!!!!!!!!

    Just kidding. The player’s perspective, as always, is much appreciated.

    Good point about puck management. It’s been frustrating the watch the young guys make mistakes like this. I would think the coach and vets would help in this area, but maybe it is something that has to be learned through experience.

    I wonder if this is a more pronounced problem among young men who’ve been the best player on the ice the majority of their hockey careers. Taylor still burns a lot of NHL players just on skill alone. It would make sense that experience is what teaches him when he can do that and when he needs to make a safe play.

  • Randaman

    Another example of inept management. He should have been shut down a month ago so he would be ready for next season. What happens if we are behind the eight ball early next year which causes having to play catch up all year to make the play-offs. Does Lowe fire Mac-T and get another free pass? What a joke this management group is.

    • Ducey

      Yeah, they should play him all season and then right when they look like they are going to make the playoffs, they should send their #1 C for surgery.

      They were in 8th place 2.5 weeks ago, genius. After that there was still a bit of hope for a while that they could get back into it.

      Then they likely had to consult with doctors and the player to see where the shoulder was at.

      This is likely the timing that makes the most sense, given the circumstances.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        And 3.5 weeks ago they were nowhere close to a playoff spot.

        A unpredictable 5 game winning streak should have had no influence on managing a vital asset to the organization.

        I understand that the doctors said he could do no further damage and that it was all about pain management.

        But I ask you – what better time to get the surgery done in what was sure to be the last “transition year”?

    • It isn’t Lowe that’s getting the free pass. It’s Slats and Tambellini that get the free pass and everything is blamed on Lowe. Some Oilers fans like your are a joke. No wonder players don’t sign in Edmonton when some Oilers fans are a joke.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I believe most Oiler fans knew something wasn’t right with Hopkins this season. What is in question is the timing of the decision. Why the need to have him play this whole season at well under 100%. With them delaying this so long, is next season now cast into doubt? Tanking by management sure looks to be on the menu next season with Hopkins not being 100% again till after Christmas.

    • Where's Your Towel

      How many top 5 picks does it take to be successful?

      Every night after I pray for a Horcoff buy-out, and a Lowe firing, I’ve started praying for Barkov.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Obviously for our Oilers it must be 6 (lotto type picks), the fab 5 are currently in place, so we’re hoping one more no more. Would Barkov be ready for the NHL in the fall? Maybe we better pray for Nathan MacKinnon who may be closer to being ready.

        Thank you for your Horcoff buyout prayers. Prayers may not be answered the way we hoped, but all prayers are answered.

    • Oilers fans will always find something to criticize the Oilers for because Slats is no longer the GM.

      When Slats was GM, Grier had to have his shoulder popped back numerous occasions. Yesterday someone blamed current management for that while giving Slats a free ride.

      Stop blaming Lowe for Slats’ mistakes. Enough Lowe bashing and now he gets blamed for Slats’ and Tambellini’s mistakes giving both Tambellini and Slats a free ride blaming everything on Lowe.

  • OilersBrass

    Of course an injury is not great news. However, I have to say this has the potential in hindsight to work out just fine if not great?

    Consider that the Nuge was dealing with this nagging injury and was still very effective defensively. And we now know we can absolutely guarantee more offence from him when 100%. I’ll go out on a limb and say a lot more offence.

    Now that he is out to take care of this It’s very possible Oilers are drafting top 5 .. maybe even top 3-4? That is going to be one hell of another player to add to the team! This injury is bad for now… but I believe we will look back 1 year from now and say.. Damn that turned out great!

  • Dallylamma

    We need to get The Nuge on the HGH stat! KLowe needs to call up Vinny Mac at the WWE to get a line on that good stuff they dole out. Drugs not hugs until The Nuge reappears as The Huge, complete with uncontrollable bacne and uncontrollable rage!

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Ummmmm, I don’t think so Jason, statement looks good in your article though.

    “Many fans were wondering why the team didn’t have him get it done earlier. Easy to say that now with the team officially out of the playoffs. Two weeks ago an announcement like this would have had fans storming the Oiler offices.”

    • OilersBrass

      It wouldn’t have mattered when Nuge had the surgery, it would have been a lose lose situation either way. Fans would have found SOMETHING to complain about. Thats all anyone on this forum seems to do.

      Plus Struds actually played on the Oil, I think he of all people would know how the crazy Oilers fans would react.

          • OilersBrass

            Not at all, but that is just MY OPINION haha. As much as I would like for this team to acquire all the appropriate pieces in the summer to become a playoff contending team, that would actually win a couple of rounds, those expectations are unrealistic.

            The objective from management was to do a complete rebuild through drafting, which means all of their core players will be rookies. Heck, most of the players they expect to be a part of this team for a long time to come haven’t even played pro yet.

            Everyone thought the Oilers would make the playoffs this year, and look how well that turned out. At the end of the day this is a team full of rookies, with even more rookies to come! These kids need another year or two to mature, build their skills, let there frames fill out, and learn how to properly cope with losing games and not getting so down on themselves.

            I could be wrong though! I really hope management brings in the proper players, and something clicks in these kids heads and they play completely different next year. I’m just not going to hold my breath.

          • You must be going by Lowe’s “5 to 7 year-” time frame to contend comment on Hockey Night In Canada a couple of years back.

            I have some land in Florida you may also be interested in. Great investment potential.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            The long still existing annual draft has always been about replenishing/rebuilding, that never stops/starts. Only a loser will claim to try harder when the chips are down.

            The rebuild started only 3 yrs ago, that’s a laugher.

          • OilersBrass

            Replenishing for other teams, yes. Not rebuilding though. Since 2010 how many other teams have added as many 1st round picks and rookies to their team as Edmonton has?

          • Quicksilver ballet

            If we didn’t know any better, i’d swear management must be seriously considering extending the likes of Horcoff,Smyth,Belanger and Whitney types, and put better support players behind them in the lineup. The way management continually stands behind these deadwoods, must scream all these new kids are just useless. It certainly can’t be the other way around, can it?

            Kevin Lowe has written a whole new chapter in the NHL’s tanking handbook. Those overpaid underachieving deadwood veteran types are killin this team on a nightly basis.

            *Should not be interpreted as bashing. If Jasmine knew what she was talking about. These guys should’ve been gone long ago. You lying biotch Narnia!

  • Dallylamma

    This is so reminiscent of Souray. Play him hurt kinda philosophy that Souray spoke of on his way out of town. What chokes me is that he should have been sent at the beginning of the season way back in September while he was in OKC. Where does the buck stop? Answer me that Struds. Who makes the final decision on a players health.Training staff? Players? Coach’s? Management?

    If Tambo said to the fans in March I have to shut down RNH because his shoulder needs surgery I don’t think there would have been one fan who would have complained. The “long term” health of this franchise rest on the shoulders of RNH,Hall,Shultz,Yakupov and Ebs. Literally and figuratively.The fans are not that selfish to put RNH’s health over a playoff spot. Give us some credit for goodness sake.

  • DSF

    Man some of you “fans” find anything and everything to bitch about. Its a good article and its a former player so I am sure he knows a lot more than you or I do. Calm down.

    PS-relax Michael the fans are that selfish in this town and if you think differently you must be obliovous to it

  • DSF

    Many fans were wondering why the team didn’t have him get it done earlier. Easy to say that now with the team officially out of the playoffs. Two weeks ago an announcement like this would have had fans storming the Oiler offices.

    I disagree with this statement.

    Everyone knows this team wasn’t going to win anything this year.

    Affecting next year by having the 1C not available for the start of training camp and perhaps as much as 3 weeks of play (unknown at this time, everyone needs to cross their fingers) is just bad decision making.

    My 93’s own words, this has been lingering for years.

    Waiting until his rehab affects the beginning of next year is baffling.

    Another poor management decision.

  • Id like to see the following lines next year. Somehow thru trades!

    Hall Backes Yakupov
    Lucic RNH Eberle
    Paajarvi Lander Bickell
    Orr Handzus Hartikanen

    Bogosian Smid
    Petry J. Schultz
    Scuderi Klefbom


  • Quicksilver ballet

    Jasmine same crap everyday,get over it please.You sure like to defend Lowe Im kinda thinking your his dog groomer or perhaps his maid or something.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Quote from Jason S., this would not happen on a Hawks or Blues team!. I guess not, those two teams are not coached by Krueger. There has be no improvment in players bad habits on this team all year,,, and that includes coming ready to play for 60 minutes.

    This guy needs to be replaced by a real coach.

  • There seems to be some disagreement on the general consensus of whether or not the Oil would make the playoffs this year. The smart money was always on the Oilers missing out. Jason, you mentioned it on your show (adamantly I might add) numerous times that they wouldn’t make the playoffs. With a shortened season was last year not the opportune time to have it done?

    Who is in charge of hockey operations and how is it they still have a job?

    Despite Souray being unprofessional, perhaps his complaints weren’t entirely unfounded?

  • OilersBrass

    The fact that Nuge will miss the start of next season is sad but hopefully it forces to address our quality at centre. A one-two punch of Gagner and Horcoff could have us out of the race in our division by the time RNH returns to action.

  • Newj

    Columbus Blue Jackets 1st round draft pick Ryan Murray (right after Yak) hurt his shoulder during the lock out while playing for Everett. Diagnosis – damaged labrum – season ending surgery that week – no strike shortened NHL for him.

    Jason is right that there is a potential for it to heal without surgery but the Blue Jackets took a different approach with their coveted asset. Their labrum injuries may have been different however.

    Playing center in the NHL cant be the best way for a bad shoulder to heal. I believe the Jackets approach was probably more prudent.

  • Newj

    I disagree that fans would have been storming the Oiler’s office.

    The team and the fans paid a big price to get RNH in the first place. Priority one is to protect the investment that cost so much to start with.

    They should have shut him down the moment they knew surgery was the route they were taking.

    I would rather RNH is healthy any ready to go with some summer training behind him when he arrives next Oct instead of coming into camp with question marks, soreness and no summer regiment to draw from.